Canning Economicsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I thought, since someone had written in talking about how expensive it was to can, I would talk about canning economics. Canning is expensive in some ways. There is an initial outlay of money for equipment, ingredients and jars. The thing with canning is that you have to have the right mindset. For instance, equipment must be purchased and can be rather expensive. For the homesteader, this initial outlay, although cumbersome at the time must be looked at from the perspective of cost per use. If a homesteader seriously intends to raise a good portion of their food supply, then the cost per use will more than likely be very low. Even if one spends say $300 on the best equipment he or she can find and if the homesteader uses it one hundred times over five years, the cost per use is $3. This means that the cost per use is .33 per Jar, assuming nine jars per canner. Now most canning equipment will last longer than five years, but here I will assume five years of use in order to demonstrate the point. Now the we come down to Jars. Assuming that you bought Jars brand new, and that the cost of the Jars was 6.97, which is what I paid yesterday, then the cost invested in every Jar is .58 . Now using the same five year rule which in the case of some jars may bee too long and others too short, your cost per use with every jar being used once annually would be .11 . So with Jars and equipment for five years of use you would have .44 per jar. Now the final expense of canning is what actually goes into the Jar. This can be either home grown(preferred) or purchased. In this case I will assume that as a homesteader your trees haven't started producing yet and you still need to save money. Because we don't own our own land yet this is my situation, and so I have firsthand experience trying to feed a large family on a small budget. So if your family eats peaches once a week, for nine months you will be paying full price for them. Peaches out of season here cost 1.99/lb. Assuming your family eats 3 lbs a week, which is a very small amount, you will pay $6 or so a week. Now I realize that most people say to themselves there is no way I would eat 3 lbs of peaches a week. This is because most people either can't afford them or don't have them available. So let's say just for fun we cut those weeks in half. That is still 4 and a half months at $6 a week. Keep in mind that if you had those peaches, you might eat that much every week. If you had those peaches you might also be healthier all year. Anyway, the end result is $96 in peaches to eat them once a week for four months. Remember these are peaches you are going to pay for regardless. Now, what I do is I wait until I can get peaches on sale, and the I can them. I went to the store yesterday, in fact, and they were on sale for .47/lb. Now I got two whole boxes of those same peaches for .28/lb, but for the sake of the skeptics out there we will go with the higher price. If you went out and canned those peaches, then assuming that one Jar holds three lbs,(it doesn't, but this will make the math easier) your peaches in that Jar will cost 1.41. If you add to that the cost of sugar, which at a 1.99 for 5 lbs, is .40, you have a 1.81. If you add to that your five year estimated cost of equipment of .44, you then have the total cost per jar of $2.21. Now just think, if you only had to pay 2.20 per week for your weekly peaches, then perhaps you might be able to afford that new goat. I mean after all that $96 has now become $35.20. And if you think that blows your mind just think how much you would save if those peaches had come off your own tree. That would have been only .84 per 3lb jar. So now, next time you all have to shell out the money for canning just remember Little Bit's canning economics course. It might make you feel better. The thing is I haven't even begun to touch this subject. How about buying you canning jars at garage sales and thrift stores. Heck you can probably pick up a canning kettle there too. And how did Little Bit manage to get those peaches for .28/lb anyway? So many mysteries and so little time. Oh well, I have to run, I have two boxes of peaches and three flats of strawberries to get through.
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 2000
Neat analysis Litte Bit.
I actually find canning quite economical. Basically just the cost of new lids! We can from the garden and orchard. I have a wood stove outside so don't pay electric or gas. All my jars have come from neighbors and friends who have given up canning (too expensive I suppose) or from yard sales. My canner was $10 at a flea market. Quite frankly I can't afford not to can!
-- kim (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
Very cool! Except I just bought a brand-new Presto pressure cooker/canner for $80 (including shipping) - see "A Little Victory" posting for the website address. And I figured ten years of wear out of my jars and canner (although I EXPECT a lifetime from the canner). Altogether I calculated 20 cents per jar per year (excluding water and power, which I'm still paying for). And I'm tracking what I spend on the garden so I'll be able to figure how much my tomatoes and pickles and beans cost if I want to. Plus there's the stuff that you would have thrown out - chicken stock from bones, etc - that's free as far as I'm concerned.
But none of it compares to the satisfaction of seeing those jars on the shelf and saying - I did that! And I'm not beholden to anyone else.
-- Deborah (ActuaryMom@hotmail.com), July 07, 2000.
I have 2 pressure canners (I got one free from a former canner, and another was a birthday/anniversary present from my mom), one water bath canner (former beer making supply), and about 1000 canning jars, most of which were free. I got the jars from placing an ad in the local paper for free or cheap canning jars. I got tons of calls and got enough jars that I got rid of a lot of the mayonnaise versions and kept the Ball/Kerr ones.
For those of you in mild climates and for those who can garden under glass, it makes even more economic sense to keep the stuff in the ground all year, and harvest as needed!
Thanks for the analysis, Little Bit!
-- sheepish (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
I never knew it until I moved to Missouri, but Ball canning lids are reusable. Many people I talked to use them several times, as long as they still have a good layer of the red on them. I've tried it and it does work, so that can help improve your canning economics!
-- Deb (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
I'm relatively new to canning but do think it can be a $$ saver. For example, year before last my hubby and I were in an apartment. My mother-in-law's supposedly non-fruit bearing decorative plum tree produced a bounty of nice, small plums. I went over in one day and harvested most of the fruit (about 2 or 3 grocery sacks full). Some of the larger plums we kept for fresh fruit but the smaller ones I made into jam, others were thrown to the hens I kept at my parent's ranchette. I had to buy a water bath canner (if I'd known I would have just used my big pot), 2 cases of jars to add to some my mother gave me, and a ball canning book. I made about 3 cases (quarts) of jam. Good plum jam costs about $3-4 per jar easy in my area grocery stores, so I think I made out OK and supplied my husband and I with 2 years worth of great jam. I also gave some away to friend and family as gifts for various occasions. We are just now using the final jars and unfortunatly that tree has never beared since! We have our own place now and have apples, plums, and cherries, but a late frost & high winds killed all the blooms. However, I have seen many city folks with huge apple trees letting the fruit rot in their yards. Often they will let you pick it if you ask nice!
-- Elle (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
Gene Logsdon, one of my homesteading heros (right up there with jd even!), had an amusing passage in his book "Two Acre Eden" about how experts say that you don't save money by growing your own food. While pointing out that your really DON'T need expensive equipment to grow your own food, he also points out all the things that you could be doing with the time that you spend raising and processing your own food - such as playing golf or other things that COST money, rather than save money!
When I was in nursing school, I came in one day with blackened fingernails (chemical reactions with our water - I don't use it in canning, but do wash my hands in it!) and droopy eyes. Bragged to my friends that I had put up tomatoes the day before - instructor thought that was the craziest thing she'd ever heard of - "Why, Aldi's has tomatoes for 29 cents a can! Why on earth would you bother to can them?!" I replied "Well, let's see - my tomatoes are actually ripe when I pick 'em, I know they are washed before I work them up - and I know my hands are washed too, I can fix them up however I want, I put more than 4 pear tomatoes in a pint jar and besides that - How can you feel smug about buying tomatoes at Aldi's?!?" Ah yes, the smug is worth the sweat!, as some others have reported on the "little victory" thread.
-- Polly (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
My Father visited a tomatoe cannery as a young man, and what he saw there made him detest ketchup and not be very fond of canned tomatoes either. He swears that if you saw what the put in ketchup you would never eat it again. He told me he never saw so much yucky, mould tomatoes in his life. Needless to say Dad doesn't take ketchup with his fries.
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
Sorry for the spelling error. Dan Quayle and I went to the same school. Ha Ha!
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (email@example.com), July 07, 2000.
Don't forget about health care costs. If you're growing and processing your own food-especially organically-you're going to be healthier-less doctor visits, less tums, etc.
-- Cindy (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 07, 2000.
having been around canning since i was little there is another factor that needs to be said. There is NO comparsion between what is on your shelf and what is at the local walmart, winn dixie, smiths, or what ever as far as taste goes. Bottled pears melt in your mouth store can pears chew like cardboard. Frozen corn of our own tastes like corn frozen corn at the store tastes like packing peanuts. Even if it does cost a little more, and thats debatable, the flavor of the food more than makes up for it. Just some thoughts. sm4farm
-- sm4farm (email@example.com), July 08, 2000.
I have had the pleasure of watching four generations of my family can, everything from jams and juices to meats and soups and I just can't imagine not canning. I use 2 pressure canners, one which is in excess of 55 years old and works perfectly, plus it holds half- gallons and you can double-deck it to hold 18 pints. I tend to can everything at 15 pounds pressure which cuts your time ( my canning books give times for 10 pounds and 15 pounds, so I am not guessing at timing for foods. I myself have canned for 20 years with no real disasters and very few problems. I know that canning feeds my family a variety of foods and has certainly helped us through those leaner times. Also, even though I was always around canning as a child and growing up, when the time came that I wanted to do it for myself, I lived really near my mom, but without a phone, I had to figure out a lot for myself. I loved the book "Putting Food By", plus had the Ball and Kerr canning books. I just waded in and did it. I haven't poisoned anyone yet, and I just love the variety canning gives us! I have canned baked beans, soups, stews, mushrooms and all kinds of meats and broth, plus tomatoes in every way, and all the other fruits and veggies. Don't be afraid to try, and if you can get some older canning booklets at flea markets or used book sellers--they have the best recipes from back when everyone canned everything. My old books also give times for canning at 15 pounds of pressure, so I trust the recipes. I also use mayo jars, except for Kraft jars no longer fit the standard lids. Try to get equipment at thrift shops and flea markets, plus check the local hardware stores for replacement gaskets and parts. Our local extension offices have their reps at local hardware stores to check pressure guages free at announced times during the summer. Call them if you have questions. It never hurts to ask. Also, though they are a little expensive, I love the Mrs. Wages Canning mixes--BBQ sauce, ketchup, pickles--good quality and consistant taste. I'll be glad to share any recipes I have with anyone wanting to e-mail me. Dede
-- Denyelle Stroup (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 10, 2000.
Denyelle, you mentioned Kraft mayo jars. A couple years ago I called Kraft and asked why they made the jars so they couldn't be used for canning. The lady told me they were making the jars thinner so there wouldn't be so much glass in the landfill. How 'bout that?
-- Cindy (email@example.com), July 10, 2000.
OK - here's how you get free canning jars! You know those "yuppie" spaghetti sauces? Classico, 5 Brothers, etc? Those are actually mason jars, and every week at the recycling center I peer into their container of clear glass, and get 2 or 3, on the average. I have been using them for years. They have another advantage. We love stewed tomatoes, and I do can spaghetti sauce. A pint is not quite enough (for 2 of us), and a quart is too much. Those jars are 26 oz., which we find to be perfect. Of course, the garage sale is always a good source, too. I have at least 200 jars, few of them bought! GL!
-- Brad (Homefixer@SacoRiver.net), July 10, 2000.